By Sherrie Eldridge


This is a very helpful book for both adoptees and adoptive parents.  Most people have no idea of the depth of the feelings of loss that adoptees feel as a result of being separated from their birth mothers.  According to Sherrie Eldridge, newborn babies who are given up for adoption are acutely aware of this separation, and the pain of this separation never goes away, even though the adoptees themselves may not be consciously aware of it.  In an earlier book, Twenty Things Adoptees Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, Sherrie Eldridge elaborates on this theme with the following twenty items:


1.      I suffered a profound loss before I was adopted.  You are not responsible.

2.      I need to be taught that I have special needs including emotional, educational, validation, parental, relational and spiritual needs arising from adoption loss, of which I need not be ashamed.

3.      If I don’t grieve my loss, my ability to receive love from you and others will be hindered.

4.      My unresolved grief may surface in anger toward you.

5.      I need your help in grieving my loss.  Teach me how to get in touch with my feelings about adoption and then validate them.

6.      Just because I don’t talk about my birth family doesn’t mean I don’t think about them.

7.      I want to take initiative in talking about my birth family.

8.      I need to know the truth about my conception, birth, and family history, no matter how painful the details may be.

9.      I am afraid I was “given away” by my birth mother because I was a bad baby.  I need you to help me dump my toxic shame.

10.  I am afraid you will abandon me.

11.  I may appear more “whole” than I actually am.  I need your help to uncover parts of myself that I keep hidden so I can integrate all the elements of my identity.

12.  I need to gain a sense of personal power.

13.  Please don’t say I look or act just like you.  I need you to acknowledge and celebrate our differences.

14.  Let me be my own person…but don’t let me cut myself off from you.

15.  Please respect my privacy regarding my adoption.  Don’t tell other people without my consent.

16.  Birthdays may be difficult for me.

17.  Not knowing my full medical history can be distressing at times.

18.  I am afraid I will be too much for you to handle.

19.  When I act out my fears in obnoxious ways, please hang in there with me, and respond wisely.

20.  Even if I decide to search for my birth family, I will always want you to be my parents.


The author underlines the fact that non-adoptees are unaware of many or all of these things, and that only a fellow-adoptee can truly understand them.  She writes, not only from her personal experience as an adoptee with loving, caring adoptive parents that she loved (both are now deceased) very much, but also from interviews with over 70 other adoptees about their experiences of adoption and of reconnecting with their birth mothers.  Eldridge was in her 40’s when she reconnected with her birth mother, who ended up rejecting her.  This is, of course, the worst-case scenario, but she is glad that she did reconnect, even though it ended up being very painful.  She was eventually able to forgive her birth mother for her rejection, emphasizing that we need to forgive for our sakes.  She writes:


“If we aren’t willing to forgive, we have the very person we resent roped to our backs.  Ironically, we bind ourselves to that which we hate the most….I am so glad and grateful that I chose to let go of what was hindering my climb to the summit – the need for my birth mother’s love.”


Eldridge warns that thinking about adoption and birth parents may well awaken powerful emotions in adoptees.  Nevertheless, she believes that it is worth it and even necessary.  Referring to being caught unaware by these emotions, she writes:


“There are so many advantages to being caught unaware…having an unexpected opportunity to successfully grieve our early-life losses; to enjoy healthy relationships, to develop an unshakable sense of self-esteem, to find our unique purposes in life, to have peace about our adoption experiences, to find our true identities.”


Although the author is very candid about the “down side” of adoption in that an adoptee must suffer separation from his or her birth mother to be adopted, she is still very positive about it.  She writes:


“It is a celebration of the fact that we were adopted for a purpose and that adoption is an experience that has the potential of teaching us some of life’s richest and deepest lessons.”


This is a relatively easy book to grasp and summarize, because most of the content is an explanation of twenty truths about adoption and twenty corresponding choices adoptees need to make which are summarized in the table below.


Anyone who is touched by adoption, whether as an adoptee, an adoptive parent or anyone seeking to minister to adoptees, can benefit from reading this book.  I recommend it highly.


                                                                                    John Ed Robertson

                                                                        January 31, 2004





1. Thoughts about our birth parents are innate.


1. To give ourselves permission to think about our birth parents without reservation

2. Mixed feelings about our adoptions are normal.


2. To claim both our positive and painful emotions are valid and verbalize them.

3. Learning about adoption dynamics will help us better understand the adoption triad (adoptee, adoptive parents, birth parents).


3. To educate ourselves about adoption through reading adoption literature or attending conventions or support groups.

4. It may often seem like no one understands.


4. To be proactive instead of passive when others misunderstand or mistreat us.

5. Share deep feelings only with “safe” people.


5. To begin searching for safe people, put out feelers, and take a risk.

6. Anger can be a sign we are coming to life – we can learn healthy ways to manage it.


6. To give ourselves permission to be angry, but to channel our emotion in a healthy way.

7. We can stop running from painful feelings.


7. To embrace our painful past by allowing ourselves to feel once again.

8. Many of us experience echoes of loss

8. To identify repercussions from adoption loss and grieve them.


9. We are God’s jewels

9. To establish an unshakable foundation for our self-worth.


10. An hour with a fellow adoptee is better than weeks of therapy.

10. To connect in meaningful supportive relationship with at least one fellow adoptee.


11. False guilt shouldn’t stop us from considering a reunion.

11. To weed out false guilt and begin thinking about how to meet our basic need for connection with our heritage.


12. Talking about our birth parents to our adoptive parents doesn’t mean we are being disloyal.


12. To freely discuss our birth families with our adoptive parents.

13. We must be true to our own growth process no matter what others say.

13. To tune out the input of others and listen to our own hearts.



14. Taking concrete steps toward obtaining our pre-adoption history requires courage…we can do it!

14. To take our first or next step toward obtaining our birth certificates, medical records, and other information about our birth families.


15. When we feel overwhelmed we must be gentle with ourselves.


15. To lovingly accept our limits                                     and nurture ourselves.

16. Birth relatives may reject us, but God never will


16. To focus on God’s promises to provide for us as orphans.

17. Initial rejections shouldn’t stop us – the rest of our family may be waiting with open arms!


17. To reach out to our birth relatives in our birth parents or siblings reject us.

18. Letting go of or birth mother’s original decision will set us free.

18. To let go of our birth mother’s original decision and rejections and move toward forgiveness.

19. Our footsteps are unique across the sands of time

19. To identify our passions, expectantly look for open doors, and step outside our comfort zones.


20. We can be wounded healers.

20. To lay down our lives for others through transparently sharing our stories.


Eldridge, Sherrie; Twenty Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Need To Make; Pinon Press; Colorado Springs, CO; 2003 ISBN 1-57683-307-0